November 8, 2012

Superstorm Sandy strikes

Photo courtesy Boston University

By James El-Mallakh–

Hurricane Sandy, though it was almost 700 miles away, still affected the weather in Louisville and across Kentucky after it made landfall last Monday, Oct. 29 in New Jersey. Overall Sandy’s impact on Louisville was little, but several days while Sandy was making landfall, the hurricane sent rainy weather with cold winds to most of the Eastern U.S. By Tuesday, cloud cover was over most of the Eastern United States, which helped reduce the winds in the area, according to Louisville’s branch of the National Weather Service.

On the East Coast, however, the impact of the storm was high. At least 40 storm-related deaths had been attributed to the hurricane on Wednesday. By Thursday that number had climbed to 76 and continued as additional deaths were found during storm clean up. In addition to the human toll, there were still 4.7 million homes without power by Thursday. While the hurricane was making landfall on Monday, about eight million people lost power.

Tim Dowling, the director of the atmospheric science program at U of L, says that hurricane Sandy was, “the largest hurricane seen in the Atlantic, ever.”

By Tuesday in Washington, D.C., at least 100,000 people were still without power, and several areas of the city remained flooded.

That same day in New York City, railways had been suspended due to flooding and power loss. Railway suspension forced commuters to resort to cars or taxis, which created additional traffic, leaving highways across the city crowded for hours. The flooding also had an impact on the city’s rat population, and people reported seeing “clusters of dead rats” in the streets.

Judy Goodman, a student at New York University and a graduate of Ballard High School, tells The Louisville Cardinal about her experience with the storm and Manhattan’s widespread lack of power.

“All of the NYU buildings lost power and most were evacuated because they’re older and don’t have backup emergency systems. Kimmel, the student center, had power and wifi, so thousands of students spent their days there, charging their electronics, using their Internet and watching Netflix. They put like, a thousand cots there, so you could just find a cot and live there — it was crazy.”

“We didn’t realize how bad it was going to be…We realized how important street lights were because our dorm is a thirty minute walk from Kimmel, and we had to start taking a taxi to go there at night — it’s way too dangerous to walk in the dark without streetlights to light the way.”

In Philadelphia, UPS had to close a sorting hub for packages. This led UPS, which is headquartered in Louisville, to increase its traffic to their worldport hub in Louisville.

Louisville is home to UPS’ worldhub, located at Louisville International Airport. Traffic increased here as a result of facility shutdowns along the East Coast.

Jon Robbins, a senior justice administration major and supervisor at UPS said that because the company has contingency plans in place, the hub in Louisville was not overly crowded, “the additional volume is going to create more work, but it’s not anything that’s going to be an outrageous amount,” said Robbins. “They’re not going to expect an outrageous commitment from workers.”

UPS operations in Philadelphia resumed Tuesday night, according to UPS

Paul Coomes, a emeritus professor from U of L’s school of business said that besides energy price blips, insurance claims and the cost of construction materials, “I don’t expect any of it to affect the annual performance [of the economy] here in Louisville.”

The hurricane did little to affect flight times. On Monday  12 flights were canceled at Louisville International airport due to weather conditions.

Dowling says that because of it’s location inland, Kentucky is easily secluded from hurricanes, “Kentucky’s one of the safest places in the world in terms of natural disasters,” Dowling said. “We don’t really get direct hits from hurricanes.”

Dowling says that hurricanes are important for the state because, “Kentucky gets a significant amount of its rainfall from hurricanes.”

The hurricane also had an effect on the presidential election. Candidates Obama and Romney both canceled campaign stops in Ohio. The slow-down in the campaigns were done as way to show respect to the those affected by Hurricane Sandy. President Obama took a three-day hiatus to manage federal response to the hurricane damage. Governor Romney held a donation drive to collect food and other supplies for the victims of the hurricane. Both candidates resumed campaigning on Thursday.

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